Answer: yes, you can go to jail for cutting someone’s hair without their permission.
But whether you go to jail, or for how long, is far from simple.
Let us explain.
Can You Go To Jail For Cutting Someone’s Hair? (Explained)
The contents of this web page are for informational purposes only, and nothing you read is intended to be legal advice. Please review our disclaimer about law/legal-related information on this website before taking action based upon anything you read or see.
All states in the United States have criminalized the intentional or even reckless harmful touching of another.
Most people understand that causing someone pain and/or injury is an assault.
Most people don’t realize that “offensive” touching that does not result in pain or injury is also criminal.
Offensive touching that does not cause pain or injury has different names in different states.
It might still be called an assault, battery, physical harassment, or even harassment.
At the core of these crimes is an intentional touching of another person without their permission that is offensive or harmful.
Touching someone’s clothing while they are wearing it, hat while they are wearing it, and their hair (long or short) would count as touching their person.
Touching someone without their permission is generally considered de facto ‘offensive’ unless the victim admits that the touching was not.
In most situations, offensive touching that doesn’t cause injury or pain is a misdemeanor.
In all states in the United States, even the lowest level misdemeanors have jail as a potential punishment, through the max that could be ordered is much less than more serious crimes.
However, if the offensive touching was committed against a spouse or romantic partner, the touching could be considered domestic violence, which carries a much higher penalty.
If the offensive touching was committed against a child, the touching could be considered a form of child abuse, which also carries a much higher penalty.
If the offensive touching was committed against an elderly person (or someone else who is vulnerable), there could be a higher penalty.
If the offensive touching was aimed at someone because of their skin color or ethnicity, it could be considered a “hate crime” and also carry a higher penalty.
In summary, cutting someone’s hair (even a small amount of it) is a criminal act that could result in jail time.
What Sort Of Jail Time Could Result From Cutting Someone’s Hair?
There is no cookie cutter answer to this question.
If a person was found guilty of simple misdemeanor harassment or assault, there may be no jail time at all.
The offender might be ordered to probation, community service, and a fine.
The court (and the prosecutor) will look carefully at a lot of details, such as:
- the criminal history of the defendant
- the age of the defendant
- the age of the victim and the relationship to the defendant
- whether there were any past crimes of violence committed by the defendant against the victim
- the victim’s role in the incident
- the physical injury suffered by the victim
- whether the incident was viewed by other people (such as the victim’s children)
- whether drugs or alcohol were involved or a factor
And so on.
In the end, it just depends on the facts of the case.
What If It Wasn’t That Much Hair?
The amount of touching involved in the case is definitely relevant.
If the amount of hair that was cut was a very small amount, the prosecutor may not be willing or interested in pursuing charges against the offender.
However, “it wasn’t that much hair” is not a defense and it will not excuse the defendant’s behavior if he does get charged.
Instead, it’ll probably be more relevant in the sentencing phase.
If you have been charged with crimes from cutting someone else’s hair, or you are worried that you will be, conferring with an attorney early on is recommended.
Even if you don’t think you’ll need a lawyer or be able to afford a retained lawyer in your case, early consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your state could prevent you from making your case worse and give you guidance about what to do next.
Want to learn more about the courts and our justice system?
Browse our free legal library guides for more information.